Retribution for Previous Losses

Headquarters Expedition against Northern Indians,
Camp on the Spokane River, W. T.,
16 miles above the ‘Falls’
September 9, 1858.

I remained during the 6th at my camp, three miles below the falls, as my troops required rest after the long march and battle of the previous day. No hostile demonstrations were made by the enemy during the day; they approached the opposite bank of the river in very small parties and intimated a desire to talk, but no direct communication was held with them, as the distance was too great and the river deep and rapid.

Early on the morning of the 7th I advanced along the left bank of the Spokane, and soon the Indians were seen on the opposite side, and a talk began with our friendly Nez Perces and interpreters. They said that they wanted to come and see me with the chief Garey, who was nearby. I told them to meet me at the ford, two miles above the falls.

I halted at the ford and encamped; soon after Garry crossed over and came to me; he said that he had always been opposed to fighting, but that the young men and many of the chiefs were against him, and he could not control them. I then told him to go back and say to all Indians and chiefs, ‘I have met you in two bloody battles; you have been badly whipped; you have lost several chiefs and many warriors killed or wounded. I have not lost a man or animal; I have a large force, and you Spokane, Coeur d’Alene, Pelouse, and Pen d’Oreille may unite, and I can defeat you as badly as before. I did not come into this country to ask you to make peace; I came here to fight. Now, when you are tired of the war, and ask for peace, I will tell you what you must do: You must come to me with your arms, with your women and children, and everything you have, and lay them at my feet; you must put your faith in me and trust to my mercy. If you do this, I shall then dictate the terms upon which I will grant you peace. If you do not do this, war will be made on you this year and next, and until your nation shall be exterminated.’

I told Garry that he could go and say to all the Indians that he might fall in with what I had said, and also to say that if they did as I demanded no life should be taken. Garey promised to join me the following (yesterday) morning on the march.

After my interview with Garey, the chief Polotkin, with nine warriors, approached and desired an interview. I received them. I found this chief was the writer of one of the three letters sent to you by Congiato; that he had been conspicuous in the affair with Colonel Steptoe, and was the leader in the battles of the 1st and 5th instant with us; they had left their rifles on the opposite bank. I desired the chief and warriors to sit still while two of his men were sent over to bring me the rifles. I then told this chief that I desired him to remain with me, with one of his men whom we recognized as having been lately at Walla Walla with Father Ravelle, and who was strongly suspected of having been engaged in the murder of the two miners in April last. I told the chief that I wished him to send his other men, and bring in all of them, with their arms and families. I marched at sunrise on the morning of the 8th, and at the distance of nine miles discovered a cloud of dust in the mountains to the front and right, and evidently a great commotion in that quarter. I closed up the train and left it guarded by a troop of horse and two companies of foot, and I then ordered Major Grier to push rapidly forward with three companies of dragoons, and I followed with the foot troops. The distance proved greater than was expected; deep ravines intervening between us and the mountains, but the dragoons and Nez Perces under Lieutenant Mullan were soon seen passing over the first hills. The Indians were driving off their stock, and had gone so far into the mountains that our horsemen had to dismount, and, after a smart skirmish, succeeded in capturing at least eight hundred horses; and when the foot troops had passed over the first mountain, the captured animals were seen approaching under charge of Lieutenant Davidson, with his men on foot, and the Nez Perces. The troops were then re-formed and moved to this camp, I having previously sent an express to the pack train to advance along the river. After en camping last evening I investigated the case of the Indian prisoner suspected of having been engaged in the murder of the two miners; the fact of his guilt was established beyond doubt, and he was hung at sunset.

After sunset last evening I sent two companies of foot and a troop of horse three miles up the river to capture a herd of cattle, but they were so wild that it was found impossible to drive them in; another attempt was made this morning, but they could not be obtained.

Very respectfully, your obedient servant,
Goo. Wright, Colonel 9th Infantry, Commanding.
Major W. W. Mackall, Assist. Adjut. Gen.,
Headquarters Department of the Pacific,
Fort Vancouver, W. T.

At daybreak on the morning of the 9th, three companies of dragoons were sent out to 1 destroy some Indian lodges and storehouses that had been discovered in the vicinity. They reported the burning of seven, some of which were well filled, while from others the storage appeared to have been recently removed. It was subsequently learned from the priests at the Coeur d’Alene Mission that one of the storehouses destroyed contained the carriage of one of the howitzers buried by Colonel Steptoe on the battlefield of Tohotonimme.

Headquarters Expedition Against Northern Indians,
Camp on the Spokane River, W. T.,
16 miles above the ‘Falls
September 10, 1858.

I have this morning received a dispatch from Father Joset, at the Coeur d’Alene Mission. He says that the hostiles are down and suing for peace; that there was great rejoicing amongst the friendly Indians when they heard of our two victories over the hostiles; had we been defeated, all those who did not join the hostiles would have been sacrificed.

I have just sent off Father Joset’s messenger. I said to the father that he could say to those who had not been engaged in this war that they had nothing to 1 fear that they should remain quiet with their women and children around them.; to say to all Indians, whether Coeur d’Alenes or belonging to other tribes, who have taken part in this unhappy war, that if they were sincere and truly desire a lasting peace, they must all come to me with their guns, with their families, and all they have, and trust entirely to my mercy; that I will promise only that no life shall be taken for acts committed during the war. I will then tell them what I do require before I grant them peace. As I reported in my communication of yesterday the capture of 800 horses on the 8th instant, I have now to add that this large band of horses composed the entire wealth of the Pelouse chief Til-co-ax. This man has ever been hostile; for the last two years he has been constantly sending his young men into the Walla Walla valley, and stealing horses and cattle from the settlers and from the government. He boldly acknowledged these facts when he met Colonel Steptoe, in May last. Retributive justice has now overtaken him; the blow has been severe but well merited. I found myself embarrassed with these 800 horses. I could not hazard the experiment of moving with such a number of animals (many of them very wild) along with my large train; should a stampede take place, we might not only lose our captured animals, but many of our own. Under those circumstances, I determined to kill them all, save a few for service in the quartermaster’s department and to replace broken-down animals. I deeply regretted killing these poor creatures, but a dire necessity drove me to it. This work of slaughter has been going on since 10 o’clock of yesterday, and will not be completed before this evening, and I shall march for the Coeur d’Alene Mission tomorrow.
Very respectfully, your obedient servant,

G. Wright, Colonel 9th Infantry, Commanding.
Major W. W. Mackall, Assistant Adjutant General,
Headquarters Department of the Pacific,
Fort Vancouver, W. T.

Referring further to Lieutenant Kip’s journal, also to the Journal of the Military Service Institution : On the morning of the 9th, Colonel Wright convened a board of officers to determine what should be done with the captured horses. It was decided that one hundred and thirty should be selected for use of the command and the remainder shot. Each of the officers was allowed to select a pony for himself, but with the understanding that if it did not prove satisfactory it was to be shot.

Two companies were ordered out to perform the duty of shooting the horses. A corral was first made, into which they were all driven. Then they were lassoed, one by one, and dragged out and dispatched by a single shot, without waste of ammunition, the colts being knocked on the head. This method was continued throughout the 9th, and at the close of the day about two hundred and seventy animals had been killed. During the night following the camp was continually disturbed by the distressing cries of mares whose young had been thus slain.

The process adopted on the 9th for killing the horses being deemed too slow, on the following day volleys were fired into the frightened, huddled mass by companies drawn up for the purpose, until all were put to death.

At this date, 1911, over fifty years after that occurrence, the place is still marked by the bleaching bones of the innocent animals whose lives were sacrificed to appease the stern demands of warfare. The visitor at Spokane Bridge, Washington, may, at any time, have the spot pointed out to him.

The horses reserved for the command proved to be too refractory for safe utility, and it was not long ere they were nearly all disposed of. The persistent efforts of some of the officers, however, to bring those selected by themselves into subjection, furnished a great deal of amusement to the troops, besides a sore accumulation of bruises to the officers, and resulted, generally, in a sentence of execution being pronounced upon the hapless cayuse.

One lieutenant who had selected a specially hand some pony, undertook to break it without the assistance of more experienced horsemen. For a day or two it submitted to the saddle in a philosophical sort of way without any extraordinary show of rebellion, but one day as the column pursued the even tenor of its way, true to the disposition of its kind, the animal suddenly shot out of the line and began bucking. The lieutenant made shift to retain his position in the saddle, but was soon thrown, striking the ground with great force. The pony then made off to water. After being caught and brought back it was again mounted by the lieutenant, and again it went to bucking. This time the lieutenant took advantage of the first favorable opportunity and slid off. He then asked if any man in his company would volunteer to ride it and in response one man stepped forward. In a short time after mounting, he, too, was thrown, and the officer was unable to induce any others to volunteer for the performance. The cayuse was therefore ordered to the rear, where it suffered the fate of so many of its fellows.

With Lieutenant Mullan’s Nez Perces there was an Indian known as “Cutmouth John,” so called from a conspicuous scar extending from, his mouth, which had been caused, apparently, by a knife cut. He was generally regarded as being somewhat “cultus,” though his cunning maneuvers were often amusing. No other in Mullan’s force secured more scalps than he, and no one perhaps was en titled to fewer. He persisted in spending a great deal of his time hanging around the officers and had elicited a promise from the lieutenant of the cowboy propensities that if the pony selected proved to be unsuitable it should be turned over to him. Coming upon the scene soon after the pony had been shot, he straightway reminded the officer of his promise. The latter could only plead that he had forgotten the circumstance, but, to assuage the wounded feelings of “Cutmouth,” in lieu of the pony he offered him a shirt which was extra among his wardrobe. Being in far greater need of apparel than of a pony, the substitute was entirely satisfactory to the Machiavellian brave.

Headquarters Expedition Against Northern Indians
Camp at the Coeur d’Alene Mission, W. T.
September 15, 1858.

I marched from my camp on the Spokane river, 16 miles above the falls, on the morning of the nth instant; after fording the river, our line of march was pursued along its right bank for fourteen miles, when I struck the Coeur d’Alene lake and encamped. Resuming our march on the 12th, we soon lost view of the lake on our right and struck into the mountains, with a forest on either hand, and a trail which admitted only the passage of a single man or animal at a time. After marching twelve miles I found a small prairie, with a fine running stream of water, and encamped.

Marching early on the 13th, we found the trail infinitely worse than that of the previous day; passing through a dense forest, with an impenetrable undergrowth of bushes on both sides, and an almost continuous obstruction from fallen trees, our progress was necessarily slow, having to halt frequently and cut away the logs before our animals could pass over. The column and pack train could only move in single file, and extended from six to eight miles, but it was perfectly safe, the front and rear were strongly guarded, and nature had fortified either flank. No communication could be had with the head of the column and its rear, and thus we fol lowed this lonely trail for nineteen miles to this place. The rear of the pack train with the guards did not reach here until 10 o’clock at night. I found the Indians here in much alarm as to the fate which awaited them, but happily they are now all quieted. Father Joset has been extremely zealous and persevering in bringing in the hostiles. They are terribly frightened, but last evening and today they are coming in quite freely with the women and children, and turning over to the quartermaster such horses, mules, &c., as they have belonging to the United States.

The hostile Spokane have many of them gone beyond the mountains and will not return this winter. The Pelouse with their chiefs, Kamiaken and Til-co-ax, are not far off, but it is doubtful whether they will voluntarily come in. If they do not, I shall pursue them as soon as I can settle with the Coeur d’Alenes.

The chastisement which these Indians have received has been severe but well merited, and absolutely necessary to impress them with our power. For the last eighty miles our route has been marked by slaughter and devastation; 900 horses and a large number of cattle have been killed or appropriated to our own use; many horses, with large quantities of wheat and oats, also many caches of vegetables, kamas, and dried berries, have been destroyed. A blow has been struck which they will never forget.

I hope to march from this place on the 18th or 19th in the direction of Colonel Steptoe’s battle ground, having in view to intercept, if possible, the Pelouse, and also to hold a meeting with several bands of the Spokane, if they can be collected.

The troops are in fine health and spirits. I have provisions which, by economy and a slight reduction of the ration, will last until the 5th of October. We shall soon feel the want of bootees very sensibly. The days are warm, but ice a quarter of an inch thick is made every night.

Very respectfully, your obedient servant,
G. Wright, Colonel 9th Infantry, Commanding.
Major W. W. Mackall, Assistant Adjutant General,
Headquarters Department of Pacific,
Fort Vancouver, W. T.

Headquarters Expedition against Northern Indians,
Camp 35 miles S. W. of Coeur d’Alenes Mission, W. T.,
Sept. 21, 1858.

I have the honor to submit a resume of operations since my communication (No. 17) of the 15th instant.

On the 17th instant the entire Coeur d’Alenes nation having assembled at my camp near the mission, I called them together in council. I then stated to them the cause of my making war upon them. I made my demands specifically: 1st, that they should surrender to me the men who commenced the attack on Lieutenant Colonel Steptoe, contrary to the orders of their chiefs; 2nd, that they should deliver up to me all public or private property in their possession, whether that abandoned by Lieutenant Colonel Steptoe, or received from any other source; 3rd, that they should allow all white persons to travel at all times through their country unmolested; 4th, that as security for their future good behavior, they should deliver to me one chief and four men with their families, as hostages, to be taken to Fort Walla Walla.

After a brief consultation, they announced their determination to comply with all my demands in every particular, in sincerity and good faith.

All the Coeur d’Alenes nation, with the exception of some six or eight, were present at the council; and as an evidence that they had previously determined to make peace on any terms, they brought with them their families, and all the property they had belonging to the government or to individuals, ready and willing to submit to such terms as I should dictate.

The chiefs and head men came forward and signed the preliminary articles of a treaty of peace and friendship, and in the course of the day fulfilled, as far as practicable, my demands by delivering up horses, mules and camp equipage.

The chiefs and head men expressed great grief and apparently sincere repentance for their misconduct, which had involved them in a war with the United States. I have never witnessed such unanimity of feeling nor such manifestations of joy as was expressed by the whole Coeur d’Alene nation, men, women and children, at the conclusion of the treaty. They know us, they have felt our power, and I have full faith that henceforth the Coeur d’Alene will be our staunch friends.
I marched from the Coeur d’Alene Mission on the morning of the 18th, having with me the prisoners, hostages, and many other Coeur d’Alene, as guides, &c. Our route lay down the right bank of the Coeur d’Alene River for thirteen miles, where I encamped at a point where the river has to be ferried. I occupied most of the 19th in crossing the troops, animals, and stores, assisted by the Indians with their canoes.

Leaving camp on the 20th, we pursued our march still in the mountains, and the trail obstructed by fallen trees, until we struck the St. Joseph’s river at thirteen miles and encamped. Again we found a river which could not be forded, and our two boats with the Indian canoes were instantly called into requisition. By sunset the general supply train was crossed, and recommencing at daylight this morning, by 12 o’clock m. the rear of the column was ready to move.

I shall march tomorrow for the vicinity of Lieu tenant Colonel Steptoe’s battle-ground to obtain the abandoned howitzers, and in the expectation of meeting the Spokane and Pelouse.

Very respectfully, your obedient servant,
G. Wright, Colonel 9th Infantry, Commanding
Major W. W. Mackall, Assistant Adjutant General
Headquarters Department of the Pacific,
Fort Vancouver, W. T.

Manring, B. F. Conquest of the Coeur d'Alene, Spokane and Palouse Indians. The Washington Historical Quarterly, Vol. 3 No. 2, 1912.

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